Fallon’s Steven Moon celebrates after his game-saving pass breakup on fourth down in the final contested play of the game to give the Greenwave a 7-6 win over Elko on Friday.
Photo by Thomas Ranson.
Only one thing was going through his mind as he read the play and saw the ball come toward him with time winding down.
“I saw the guy coming to a post in my zone, read it and smacked down the ball,” said Steven Moon, who was in a cover-three scheme and his defensive move stopped Elko from scoring. “Interceptions don’t do anything in that situation.”
In a battle of defenses Friday night, Moon and the Greenwave prevailed over Elko, 7-6, in a battle for sole possession of the 3A East division at the Edward Arciniega Athletic Complex. Fallon hosts Fernley on Friday at 7 p.m. before traveling to Lowry next week to end the regular season. One more win will give Fallon the division title and first-round bye for the 3A North playoffs.
“I was extremely proud of the defense and how they played tonight,” Fallon coach Brooke Hill said. “(Elko) was giving (Bryce Adams) some tough looks. They’re a good football team so we knew it wasn’t going to be easy. We had to make some adjustments at halftime. We didn’t have a whole lot of possession in the second half but we made the best of it.”
Adams, facing a tough Elko defense, completed only 6 of 16 for 56 yards but his touchdown pass to fellow junior Ethan Tarner tied the game in the third quarter. Brody Jacks carried the ball for 62 yards on 17 carries, while Steven Moon hauled in three passes for 40 yards.
“It was a battle. It was a grind,” Jacks said. “We came out in the second half a lot better. The O-line was pushing more and opening gaps so it made it easier. Bryce started throwing better passes.”
Fallon’s defense was on the field almost twice as long as its offense (30:19 to 17:41), but the Greenwave held strong. Despite giving up 303 yards, including 207 on the ground, Fallon had several crucial stops on third and fourth down throughout the game before a pass interference call led to the game’s first touchdown.
Eli Finlayson, after a rough start, frustrated Fallon’s defense with 145 rushing yards while quarterback Justus Nielsen complete 9 of 14 passes for 96 yards, including four completions to Cael Sellers for 41 yards.
After Elko stopped Fallon with about six minutes left in the game, the Indians drove into Fallon territory but a holding penalty set them back. On first-and-18, Nielsen ran to the 17 for a gain of about six yards and neared the original line of scrimmage. The next play had no chance as Fallon brought in more guys than the Indians had blockers.
On 3rd-and-11 from the 16, Finlayson dropped for a loss of one after a low snap. The Greenwave defense stepped up again with 48 seconds to go when Moon batted down Nielson’s pass near the end zone to preserve the win.
“They had a tremendous week of practice, especially with the defensive game plan,” Hill said. “They were dialed in and it showed tonight.”
After Fallon made a sack on Elko’s first play of the third quarter, Finlayson took a wildcat snap on third-and-11 and gained big yardage near the Fallon 40. The next snap was a run of about 3 yards, and Preston Chamberlin picked up a first down with a catch and run of 11 yards behind good blocks.
Fallon senior Casamaro White ran down a sweep from the backside for a loss of one, and Fernando Acosta gained two yards — Elko facing a third-and-9.
A questionable pass interference call negated a defensive stop on fourth down, which gave the Indians a first down in the red zone.
On third down from the Fallon 7, Finlayson picked up some blocks and cut up the field behind junior Breaden Raddatz to score with 4:40 left in the third quarter. Elko elected for the two-point conversion, and Fallon’s Tristan Hill nearly took the pitch — killing the play in the backfield. Elko led 6-0.
“I think they were upset about the call, too. They’re a confident group,” Hill said. “One thing I’ll say about them is they can handle adversity and overcome adversity and find ways to win football games. That’s a sign of a good football team.
Fallon’s next drive started in great field position, and Jacks carried for 5 yards — Adams faking a pitch and gaining 15 yards before putting the ball on the deck. The Greenwave recovered the loose ball, and Fallon faced a 3rd-and-5 after a five-yard run by Jacks on second down. Junior Roland Grondin made a great cut and broke a tackle in the backfield, barely picking up enough yardage to get beyond the line to gain.
With 2:20 remaining in the third, the Wave had a first down at the Elko 27.
Adams found Moon at the Indians’ 10-yard line when the senior receiver jumped high into the air for a 16-yard reception. After a Jacks short carry, Adams found Tarner as the junior receiver ran toward the left side of the end zone for an 8-yard touchdown on 2nd-and-goal. Cesar Gonzalez Ledesma’s kick on the PAT was good to give Fallon a 7-6 lead.
After a 15-yard penalty by the Indians’ on Fallon’s touchdown play was assessed on the kickoff, Ledesma pounded the boot into the end zone for a touchback.
Finlayson kept a wildcat run for not much, and Nielsen escaped pressure for about four yards — setting up a huge third down on the last play of the third quarter.
A four-yard tote by Finlayson was followed by a five-yard gain, and then he followed some more good blocking for another clutch third-down conversion — Finlayson running to the Fallon 35 on a gain of about 25 yards. Sellers was missed on what could have been a huge throw down the field, and Caden McKnight’s tackle limited the gain to a yard.
Finlayson ran to about the 30 and got a push by his cohorts for a run of eight, but the Wave stuffed the 4th-and-1 at their own 28.
“We had to shut down the road game. Finlayson is a player. We all have to get on him and stop the run,” Tristan Hill said. “We just came together and stepped up. We came in and fill our gaps better than we did before and got our stops.”
On Elko’s first possession of the game, Finlayson trucked a defender and gained 12 yards on a tough tote, Nielsen completed a pass to senior Ayden Whiting and another pass of 2 yards to Whiting set up 3rd-and-short — the chains moved with a short run by Nielsen. Following a 3-yard carry from Acosta on a sweep, Nielsen made a nifty run and then gained a first down with his legs once again.
Fallon’s defense, which gave up several long-yard plays, stepped up when it needed to, starting with junior Baylor Sandberg sacking Nielsen on the Greenwave 44, and Finlayson was dropped for a 1-yard loss. McKnight blocked Elko’s punt, and Alex Luna picked up the ball and carried to the Fallon 36 but short of the line to gain for a turnover on downs.
“We were able to get pressure a lot,” Sandberg said about the defensive line. “This was probably our most important game of the season so far. We can’t overlook our next teams.”
Adams completed a 7-yard pass to Tarner, and Jacks moved the chains for the first time with a run of 7 yards to midfield on the last play of the first quarter. After an incomplete pass, Jacks dozed his way for 5 yards for a 3rd-and-5 — a pass falling incomplete. The Wave pinned the Indians deep at their own 7 on the punt.
Nielsen picked up two yards on first down, and senior Hill kept outside contain for a tackle at the line of scrimmage.
Both teams couldn’t find the end zone in the half and with 1:25 on the clock in the first half, Nielsen turned a negative play into a positive with a run to the Indians’ 39. Elko wasted a long run to the Fallon 32 by Finlayson on the final play of the half by not calling timeouts prior to the carry, the game going to the locker room as a scoreless battle.